Prayer for Schools, A Plan for Fathers
After the organ and tambourines died down inside the packed Bright Star Church of God in Christ, Pastor Chris Harris led the hundreds among his flock north on East 44th Street to the Woodson Middle School campus.
Harris and his parishioners ringed the school, raised their palms and prayed for safety and scholastic excellence when classes start for most Chicago students on Tuesday.
The act is to be replicated by dozens of other faith leaders and congregations this week at schools across the city, Harris said.
While people uttered quiet prayers in the direction of the school on Sunday afternoon, Harris called out a list of goals: an end to violence, great teaching, parental involvement and adequate resources. Other goals included strong attendance and the promotion of abstinence among students.
“Speak things into existence!” Harris said.
Harris aims to bring out 50 faith leaders for what has become an annual effort, and he has partnered with the Black Star Project’s Million Father March. In its eighth year, leaders of the Chicago-based initiative are working to turn out fathers and father figures to walk their children to school in cities worldwide.
Greater fatherly involvement could reduce problems such as nonattendance and gang affiliation that bedevil urban schools, said Phillip Jackson, the Black Star Project’s founder.
Jackson encouraged men – including fathers, stepfathers, uncles and big brothers – to take a few hours off work Tuesday morning to protect and encourage students.
Cornell Gandy, 35, said he plans to walk his 14-year-old son to the first day of his freshman year of high school in the Austin neighborhood.
Gandy said troublemakers who see his son in the care of his father might be less likely to target him for violence or gang recruitment.
“If they see me walking with my son, they’ll show that respect,” he said.